Dear NYC Transfer School Principals

Dear Principals of NYC Transfer High Schools,

I know it has been a difficult year or two trying to figure out what new state accountability standards would mean for your school. You’ve engaged parents and students, written letters, attended meetings - all trying to make the case that you INTENTIONALLY serve students who are unlikely to graduate, and maybe whether or not 67% of them graduate (YES or NO) in 6 years is not the best measure of your school’s ability to serve them.

Well, now we have some answers from the state. One fifth of transfer schools need improvement. Students fell off track at other schools, and now you have ‘em, so there’s your problem. You can see clearly from the state grad rates that don’t match the city grad rates at all, that you performed better or worse than you thought maybe you did for some cohort. And now we’ve also learned how we are going to get off or stay off the state’s list:

1) Don’t accept students you were designed to accept. If you accept a student who only has a few credits and didn’t pass any Regents in their first or second year, well, they might not graduate. They probably have some challenges in their lives, and they will hurt your numbers. If they have financial or family responsibilities, have an difficulty learning in a traditional setting, have children, were suspended in the past, have mental health issues, are homeless, or experienced any kind of trauma, they are what we now call “TOO risky” and you should refer them to the nearest dropout center.

2) Test test test. If a student took the ELA Regents six times - failing each time until they finally reached a 65 - make them take it again and again and again until they get a Level 4 score. That will help with your Auto Appeal. What does that mean? It’s confusing. But higher is better for keeping your school open. Better yet, refer to my first tip by accepting students who already passed the Regents with high scores, because whether they took the test at your school or at their previous schools is irrelevant to holding your school accountable.

3) Get that paper! At the end of the day, the diploma is what matters. Unless a student graduates in their seventh year of high school - then it doesn’t matter at all. As research shows, if they graduate high school (in 6 years), they are basically all set for life. So, if you were looking at other outcomes, like growth in reading and math skills, increased engagement and attendance in school, improved social or emotional mindsets and behaviors, or credit accumulation (other silly ideas here), don’t bother. Make it rain credits.

If you have additional questions about your data, see the link here. Oh, sorry, the state forgot to create a link to explain all this. However, if you read Greek, try the State’s Educator Guide.

Hope this was helpful!

Ali

P.S. This letter was my therapeutic response of turning rage into humor. Transfer school educators - you are my heroes, and I hope you can stay focused on doing what you do best.